Rural India goes for anti-ageing cream

Mumbai: Rural consumers have leapfrogged, and how. Tiding over the slowdown of the last few years, sunshine stories are emerging on the consumption front with certain international brands and premium aspirational categories finding takers in sections of the Indian hinterland. Experts said it’s not just cream biscuits and liquid soaps — the countryside is seeing anti-ageing creams, microwave ovens, global cosmetic brands and even diapers being bought, albeit in a limited way.

According to consumer insights gathered by rural tech startup StoreKing, international brands like Garuda Foods and Maybelline cosmetics have found their way into markets beyond the cities without companies making significant investments. StoreKing has built a technology platform that acts as a bridge between a rural retailer and FMCG brands.

StoreKing founder and CEO Sridhar Gundaiah said, “We see a definite trend and interest in more international brands entering these markets. Sale of certain branded anti-ageing creams can go to a few hundred units per day based on time and season. Diapers, too, have taken rural India by storm because of the convenience of use.”

Households in the hinterland are aspiring to own microwave ovens as well. Such trends are emanating from urban influence and rural consumers wanting to reheat cooked food rather than prepare a fresh meal for the evening.

Godrej Appliances national sales head Sanjeev Jain said, “The microwave oven is still an urban phenomenon in the country with the penetration of this category at an all-India level of just 4%. The e-commerce industry has played its role in driving this segment and so has upcountry demand, given the electrification drive. With changing nature of lives, such areas are also witnessing demand for relatively new-age products. However, price points continue to matter and, to that extent, only the lower-end segment of microwave ovens are registering growth.” The starting price of a solo microwave oven is Rs 4,500.

One behaviour of rural consumers that clearly comes out in these insights is following the neighbour — be it in two-wheelers, jewellery, pilgrimage or purchasing mobile phones. Peer influence helps consumers identify products for their purchase and consumption.

Gundaiah said, “Rural consumers have the aspiration and the ability to spend on consumer products due to the proliferation of DTH (direct-to-home) TV and mobile internet. But their tastes and preferences are community influenced. A village in Karnataka — Hanchipura — saw almost every household purchasing a red Hero Honda Splendor because his/her neighbour had bought it too.”

StoreKing covers 43,000 retailers in 10 states, which is about 1.5 lakh villages in 3,000 towns. Its tech platform, which lists consumer brands, is used by companies to push select labels/stock-keeping units based on demand assessed by the retailer. Since it is purely demand-driven, it eliminates the need to stock unwanted products in kirana stores.

The general profile of these upcountry customers is women aged 16-40, typically a college student or homemaker. The average male consumer is in the age group of 18-35 years, having completed school and is either working in a farm or a nearby factory.